Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On November 3, the U.S. District Court of Nevada granted a payday lender’s motion to stay a case brought by the CFPB, pending a SCOTUS’s decision in Community Financial Services Association of America v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (see InfoBytes here and here). The CFPB issued a civil investigative demand (CID) in late 2022 to the lender, as part of an investigation into its lending practices. The lender complied with the CID initially, but later requested a stay due to the impending SCOTUS decision regarding the constitutionality of the CFPB’s funding structure, which could impact the CFPB’s enforcement authority. Although the CFPB opposed the stay by arguing that the extensive delay could hinder its ability to investigate the lender, the court granted the lender’s motion, in line with other district courts that have faced similar issues.
On November 7, the CFPB proposed a rule to supervise large non-bank fintech firms that offer services like digital wallets and payment apps, applicable to larger firms handling greater than 5 million transactions per year, in the same way many large banks and credit unions are supervised. While fintech agencies offer consumer banking services, they are not regulated as stringently as banks are.
The CFPB found that many consumers from middle- and lower-income backgrounds now prefer using digital consumer payment applications over cash. This shift from traditional banking puts consumers at risk since fintech applications are not subject to “traditional banking safeguards… like deposit insurance.” The CFPB’s proposed rule ensures these non-bank companies:
- Adhere to federal consumer financial protection laws that encompass protections against unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices, consumers’ rights when transferring money, and privacy rights. The CFPB would supervise larger participants to ensure compliance.
- Follow the same rules as banks and credit unions, fostering fair competition and consistent enforcement of federal consumer financial protection laws.
The Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) provides the CFPB with the authority to conduct supervisory examinations over all non-bank companies in the mortgage, payday loan, and private student loan industries, as well as those who serve as service providers to banks and credit unions. In addition, the CFPB can supervise individual entities that pose a risk to consumers, as well as larger participants in other markets. This proposed rule would give the CFPB greater regulatory authority and oversight over large technology firms in consumer financial markets.
On November 1, the CFPB published a broad summary of several findings regarding how financial institutions may not be doing all they can to help service members under federal legislation. For instance, in 2022, the CFPB found that service members were losing $10 million a year in savings in eligible auto and personal loans. Last month, the CFPB released a similar study on how credit card companies were also limited in giving all the benefits they could offer under the SCRA. Loans aside, military payroll allotments provide financial companies with a way to force automatic payments––something the CFPB acknowledges is “ripe for abuse.” The CFPB worked with the DOD to close loopholes that could exploit servicemembers. Additionally, military identity theft in 2023 is still an ongoing issue, as has been previously covered by InfoBytes here. But in October the CFPB found that Transunion had failed to provide crucial identity theft protection for thousands of individuals, including active-duty members of the military. There are also issues with supposed consulting services: “Earlier this year, the CFPB published a joint WARNO with the VA on unaccredited individuals and organizations and the CFPB is working closely with federal and state agencies to protect veterans’ benefits.”
The CFPB notes it will “continue to work with all our partners as the financial marketplace evolves so we can understand the unique needs and challenges of members of the military community. If you have a problem with a financial product or service, submit a complaint to us, and we’ll work to get you a response.”
On November 2, the CFPB issued a report on several states’ community reinvestment laws. The report focused on how much outstanding mortgage debt banks hold in the residential mortgage market: in 1977, “banks held 74 percent of outstanding mortgage debt. By 2007, this share had declined to just 28 percent.”
In 1977, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to combat redlining practices that prevailed despite the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975. While the federal CRA applies to banks only, many states created their community reinvestment laws to cover non-bank mortgage companies, including CT, IL, MA, NY, RI, WA, WV, and DC.
Key findings from the CFPB's report are below:
- Some states require mortgage companies to provide affirmative lending, service delivery, and investment services;
- Some states conduct independent examinations, while other states review federal performance evaluations in conjunction with state factors;
- Enforcement includes limitations on mergers, acquisitions, branching activities, and licensing;
- Some states collect information beyond federal requirements for evaluation; and
- Some state acts have been amended in response to market changes.
The CFPB finds that states play an active role in promoting reinvestment by institutions, but further review is necessary to understand these developments.
Recently, the U.S. Senate passed a joint resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 32) under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the CFPB’s small business lending rule. As previously covered on InfoBytes, the rule, which requires financial institutions to collect and report to the CFPB credit application data for small businesses, has faced opposition from various politicians and is the subject of litigation brought by financial institutions that would be subject to the rule in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas. In support of the joint resolution, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who introduced the legislation, recently argued on the floor that “the CFPB is setting these small business people… up for lawsuits” because “[it] has promulgated a rule that totally perverts our intention in section 1071.” If the House of Representatives similarly passes the joint resolution, and President Biden signs it, the CFPB’s rule will be nullified under the Congressional Review Act.
The joint resolution follows the order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granting a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining the CFPB from enforcing the rule (covered by InfoBytes here and here).
On October 26, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas entered an order granting intervenors’ motions for preliminary injunction against the CFPB and its small business loan rule.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the district court entered an order in August enjoining enforcement of the rule pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Fin. Serv. of Am. and extending the rule’s compliance date to account for the tine the stay remained in place. The court, however, limited that relief to the plaintiffs at that time—a bank and two bank trade associations—and their members. In the wake of this ruling, separate trade associations representing small business lenders asked the CFPB to take administrative action to ensure that the compliance date for other lenders would be adjusted commensurately. The CFPB declined their request.
In response, separate groups of intervenor plaintiffs, including trade associations representing other types of small business lenders, intervened in the action and filed motions seeking to expand the scope of the preliminary injunction to all affected lenders (or at least their members), claiming the court’s decision to spare some from the rule put them at a competitive disadvantage. The CFPB opposed those motions (covered by InfoBytes here).
In its most recent order, the court reasoned that the preliminary injunction should extend to intervenors because the CFPB lacked evidence supporting its argument that that greater harm would result from a stay on its 1071 rule and “its intended benefits for small businesses failed to tip the balance in their favor.” The court reasoned that the purpose of the statute underlying the Bureau’s final rule is the equal application of lending laws to all credit applications to avoid disparate outcomes, presuming uniform application to covered financial institutions. Therefore, to exempt plaintiffs and not all other covered financial institutions would undermine the statute, leaving “non-exempted lenders subject to the discretion of an agency whose very ability to act is a matter of constitutional concern pending resolution on a nationwide scale.” Under that reasoning, the district court granted plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction, enjoining the CFPB from implementing its 1071 Rule for small business lending.
CFPB report reveals high credit card costs, growing debt, and digital shifts led to consumers’ revolving debts in 2022
On October 25, the CFPB released a report on credit card interest rates and fees in 2022 highlighting the impact of the cost to consumers. The report found that credit card companies charged consumers more than $105 billion in interest and $25 billion in fees, with the bulk of the fees being late fees.
According to the 175-page report, consumers are rolling balances month-to-month, falling into debt, while credit card companies’ profit margins remain high. The CFPB highlighted additional trends, including how (i) the profits of major credit card companies have increased, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, which could indicate a lack of competition in the industry, with a few dominant players; (ii) Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) for credit cards continue to rise above the cost of offering credit (meaning cardholders are paying more in interest); (iii) many cardholders with subprime credit scores paid a significant percentage of their average balance in interest and fees; (iv) late fees charged to cardholders have risen to pre-pandemic levels, and more consumers are delinquent; (v) credit card debt reached a record $1 trillion by the end of 2022, and annual spending on credit cards increased, returning to pre-pandemic levels; and (vi) consumers who roll debt from month to month are paying a significant portion of interest and fees but earning only a small percentage of rewards. The report also notes a rise in digital communication—around 80 percent of cardholders, especially those under 65, use mobile apps for card management, which exhibits a shift in how consumers and financial institutions interact in the credit card industry.
On October 20, the CFPB Education Loan Ombudsman published its annual report on consumer complaints submitted between September 1, 2022, and August 31, 2023. The report is based on approximately 9,284 student loan complaints received by CFPB regarding federal and private student loans. Roughly 75 percent of complaints were related to federal student loans while the remaining 25 percent concerned private student loans. Overall, the report found underlying issues in student loan servicing that threaten borrowers’ ability to make payments, achieve loan cancellation, or receive other protections to which they are entitled under federal law. The report indicated that challenges and risks facing federal student loan borrowers include customer service problems, errors related to basic loan administration, and problems accessing loan cancellation programs. Similarly, private borrowers face issues accessing loan cancellation options, misleading origination tactics, and coercive debt collection practices related to private student loans.
The Ombudsman’s report advised policymakers, law enforcement, and industry participants to consider several recommendations: (i) ensuring that federal student loan borrowers can access all protections intended for them under the law; (ii) ensuring that loan holders and servicers of private student loans do not collect debt where it may no longer be legally owed or previously discharged; and (iii) using consumer complaints to develop policies and procedures when they reveal systemic problems.
On October 17, the CFPB announced an enforcement action against a nonbank international money transfer provider for alleged deceptive practices and illegal consumer waivers. According to the consent order, the company facilitated remittance transfers through its app that required consumers to sign a “remittance services agreement,” which included a clause protecting the company from liability for negligence over $1,000. The Bureau alleged that such waiver violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and its implementing Regulation E, including Subpart B, known as the Remittance Transfer Rule, by (i) requiring consumers sign an improper limited liability clause to waive their rights; (ii) failing to provide contact and cancellation information in disclosures, and other required terms; (iii) failing to provide a timely receipt when payment is made for a transfer; (iv) failing to develop and maintain required policies and procedures for error resolution; (v) failing to investigate and determine whether an error occurred, possibly preventing consumers from receiving refunds or other remedies they were entitled to; and (vi) failing to accurately disclose exchange rates and the date of fund availability. The CFPB further alleged that the company’s representations regarding the speed (“instantly” or “within seconds”) and cost (“with no fees”) of its remittance transfers to consumers were inaccurate and constituted violations of CFPA. The order requires the company to pay a $1.5 million civil money penalty and provide an additional $1.5 in consumer redress. The company must also take measures to ensure future compliance.
On October 19, the CFPB announced a proposed rule that it said would accelerate a shift toward open banking, would give consumers more control over their financial data, and would offer new protections against companies misusing consumer data. The proposed Personal Financial Data Rights rule activates a dormant provision of law enacted by Congress more than a decade ago, Section 1033 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. According to the CFPB, the rule would “jumpstart competition” by prohibiting financial institutions from “hoarding” a person’s data and requiring companies to share data with other companies at the consumer’s direction about their use of checking and prepaid accounts, credit cards, and digital wallets. This would allow consumers to access competing products and services while ensuring that their data would be used only for their own preferred purpose. Among other things, the proposed rule would ensure that consumers: (i) can obtain their personal financial data at no cost; (ii) have a legal right to grant third parties access to information associated with their credit card, checking, prepaid, and digital wallet accounts; and (iii) can walk away from bad service. Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before December 29, 2023.